I was massively overweight as a child.
People who get to know me as an adult find that hard to believe. After all, I’m now an ultra-endurance athlete.
That said, despite being more than a foot taller and much stronger, I weigh less now than I did when I was 12 years old.
When I was a young kid, I wanted nothing more than to be fit and thin. I read all the fitness magazines. I studied nutrition. I would scour the supplement aisles at the health food stores and pharmacies to understand what every ingredient was and how it could help the body be fit and well. I read biographies of athletes and how-to-books of every type related to diet and exercise.
I lived in a small farm town, and when I was growing up the Internet was not a “thing.” My research meant asking my dad to make a 30-minute drive to the nearest library so I could check out a tall stack of personal and health development books designed for college-level readers. I would loiter in the waiting room of our local hospital, reading every health and fitness magazine they had.
In spite of all the knowledge I was putting into my brain, nothing I studied provided the key to transforming my body. Eventually, the weight did come off. I did get fit and healthy. However, my experience contrasted with all the “how-to guides” in many ways:
- It took me several years to get fit. Whereas all the books had time horizons that were far too short. 8 or 12-week plans were the norm.
- My vegetarian diet was non-negotiable. All the books focused on eating lots of meat.
- I had no disposable income as a kid. All the books recommended supplements, gym memberships and training programs.
- My favorite sports were swimming, badminton and playing around with my friends. All the books focused on weight training, running and other sports I didn’t want to participate in at the time.
The problem with the books wasn’t that they were misguided in their strategies. No doubt, the strategies would work for some people. They just didn’t work for me.
I’m sharing this personal story because it relates to a lot of the how-to and self-help advice being thrown around on the Internet and in many best-selling books. What this advice forgets is that a strategy is only one factor in finding success in any area of your life.
What matters more than the strategy?
What is most important is the kind of person you become in the pursuit of your highest goals.
No doubt, if I would have followed one of those 8-week fitness programs to the letter, I would have seen some benefits. Perhaps I would have witnessed a massive transformation. However, if that would have happened, I would have missed out on a few years of experimentation, lessons-learned and embodied knowledge and insights that I now have.
Copying someone else’s approach would have stolen the most important part of my fitness journey, learning and discovering the path that works for best for me.
- I learned that I love movement, particularly slow and steady exercise.
- I learned that I love individual pursuits more than team sports.
- I learned that audacious fitness goals motivate me.
- I learned that how I feel day-to-day is my best barometer of progress, not how I look or what I weigh.
…and so much more.
I don’t know what your goals are. I’m not sure if you are looking to reimagine your health, career, business or all of the above. If you are striving to achieve something, anything, you probably have been tempted to learn the “17 steps to success” from a so-called expert.
I’m here to tell you that reading such a book is fine if you enjoy reading and aren’t using it as a substitute for listening to your inner wisdom.
However, make no mistake that best approach to solving your problem will be the one you create, through a bit of struggle and a healthy dose of trial and error.